How CX Insight Helped VF Group Choose a Platform for Experience Innovation

When VF Group - home to brands like The North Face, Timberland, Vans and Dickies – decided to consolidate all its global ecommerce websites onto a single, consistent platform, it took the unusual step of putting customer experience insight at the heart of the platform selection process.

It was a move that would do more than simply de-risk what was a massive undertaking in its own right. The actionable insight it gathered informed a customer-centric approach that put re-platforming at the heart of a comprehensive customer experience optimisation strategy - a strategy designed to drive innovation before, during and long after platform migration.

A Customer-centric View

How did this come about? In fact, it all started with a single, simple question: “Which platform should we select?”. But VF Group was determined to look beyond purely technical and operational considerations, to also view the selection process from the point of view of experience innovation:

  • VF wanted to understand which of its current array of websites were  performing best in terms of the user experience, insight that would help to streamline the platform selection process
  • But in calling on independent Customer Experience Assessment and consultancy from Biglight, it was willing to embrace the idea that such detailed pre-work was also an opportunity to embed that platform selection process in a wider, customer-centric experience innovation strategy.
  • Heuristic analysis to more clearly define issues and opportunities across five VF brands.

As Manuel da Costa-Campos, Head of Consulting at Biglight put it: “User experience research shouldn’t just answer one question – “Which platform should I get?”. It should tell us that, but also what we want to do once we have it and what we can do in the meantime to improve the user experience and drive commercial performance.”

With that in mind, there followed a detailed program of mobile and desktop User Experience Testing, Data Analysis, Benchmarking and Heuristic Reviews led by the Biglight team, in Boston and London. That work was designed to map the micro-conversions that take users from browse to purchase, assess problem areas along the way and identify opportunities for customer experience optimisation – from quick wins to longer term strategic direction:

  • User experience testing drew on over 25 moderated, task-based sessions to identify friction and opportunities in customer journeys across five different brand websites in the US and Europe.
  • Data analysis and benchmarking by revealing micro-conversion rates at every step from browse to purchase, benchmarked both according to relative performance of VF brands and platforms, and wider market data.
  • Heuristic analysis to more clearly define issues and opportunities across five VF brands.

That process delivered a wealth of data and information, but deriving actionable insight requires a further step – a collaborative solutions workshop designed with two main purposes. The first and most important was to put each issue or opportunity in a customer-centric context, and the second was to start the process of hypothesising  and prioritising solutions.

Manuel explained: “Creating customer-centric problem statements is a crucial step. It encourages everyone to adopt a different mindset when thinking about areas of friction in the customer journey and how to address them. It ensures that user experience optimisation is focused on better serving unmet customer needs, and that innovation drives commercial performance."

Platform Selection and Much More

The outputs from that process of assessment and consultancy went far beyond simply helping VF Group to select the right ecommerce platform. It delivered a menu of customer experience innovation options, broken down across three areas:

  1. Quick wins: Optimisation opportunities that the VF brands can implement immediately, prior to replatforming, and that are likely to improve performance.
  2. Medium term A/B testing opportunities: Which have been planned into enabling the creation of an experimentation roadmap – to identify which would best enhance the customer experience and therefore deliver better commercial performance.
  3. Longer term opportunities: Areas that the brands should pursue as part of strategic development of the customer experience. 

That menu of customer experience initiatives was complemented by clear guidance on how to approach each opportunity - ranging from response and A/B testing to rapid prototyping, guerrilla testing, redesign projects and more.

But, crucially, it also enabled VF Group to take a CX-centric approach to platform selection – based on clear evidence that customer-centricity has a significant impact on commercial performance.

Manuel concluded: “Putting in place a customer-centric optimisation roadmap enables brands to go to platform providers with quite specific requirements – innovations, features and functionality the platform must support, both now and in the future. That enables very practical conversations with platform vendors and makes the decision about more than just managing risk - now it’s about maximising opportunity too.”